Twenty-three years ago President Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act to help “balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families”. Keeping up with work-life expectations and fear of going into financial hardship can be very stressful on employees who are pregnant or have to take care of a sick loved one/relative. The FMLA remains to this day the only piece of federal legislation specifically focused on helping workers manage their dual responsibilities in the workplace and the home.
What is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a United States federal law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.
FMLA allows employees to take a reasonable unpaid leave from work for only certain family and medical reasons. The act applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:
- for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
- for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
California Leave Laws:
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is the state version of the FMLA. CFRA offers the same protections as FMLA with the Following exceptions:
- CFRA covers same-sex domestic partners (FMLA does not)
- CFRA provides more privacy protections than FMLA
- CFRA does not provide leave for pregnancy-related conditions
Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is a state law that provides employees the right to take job-protected unpaid leave for a pregnancy-related condition. Employees who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and work for an employer who employs at least 5 employees are covered under the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL). PDL allows up to 4 months of leave and are entitled to reasonable accommodations at work, such as modified duties, transferring the pregnant woman to a less hazardous area, or frequent bathroom breaks.
Paid Family Leave is a law in California that offers income replacement for employees. The law provides employees up to 6 weeks of partial pay 55% of their weekly wage up to a maximum benefit, but does not guarantee job protection. If taken concurrently with FMLA and CFRA employees can qualify for 12 weeks of job-protected leave. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program is a partial wage-replacement, 55% of your weekly wages up to a maximum of 52 weeks, insurance plan for California workers who contribute a percentage of wages to the program and lose wages due to their own non-workplace-related injury, illness, or disability.
Starting in 2018, a new law will lift the 6-week partial pay of 55% to 70% for the lowest-paid earners, defined as those making up to one-third of the state’s average weekly wage of $1,121 currently. For almost all other workers, the rate will rise to 60%, up to a maximum weekly benefit of about $1,200.4 With the growing need for better paid leave policies new state standards will shape how companies form their own policies. Although states and companies are making moves to better their leave policies, greater efforts need to be made to cover both parents in the event of a crisis during child birth or ailment.